Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Quest... I am. Here.

It was late fall 2004. We were sitting in Applebee's, waiting for our dinners to arrive. "Where on earth does your spirit feel alive?" Outside? In the forest?... She caught the smile that crossed my lips and pressed further. "What were you just thinking?" she asked.

I share my thoughts. "It was many years ago. We were in New Mexico. For some reason I really wanted to go to see the Indian ruins at Chaco Canyon." She nodded, picking at the french fries that had arrived with her sandwich. "We got there about an hour before closing, so we weren't there very long, but standing by this ancient kiva..." I started picking at my fries. "I was just so moved. He was chattering away - I wished he would have shut up, because the place required silence." I paused again. "I said I wanted to go back one day...." "You NEED to", she said. "You must!"

I had a million reasons why I couldn't. Kids. Job. Husband. Money - to name a few! "Look at you", she said. "When you speak of the place, your face lights up - when you think of why you can't go, it just falls..." I was silent. Damn. She's seen through me. "Promise me you will go", she said. I nodded, though not at all sure that I could pull it off.

For Christmas that year, I asked for a weekend away - and a plane ticket to Albuquerque, NM. We were in the season of Sorrow and Peace. The time of waiting.

Winter passed and spring arrived. The weekend had been set. The very last weekend of April, 2005. I would return to the ruins of northwest New Mexico.

As the months passed, I became more filled with anticipation - and with a vague uneasiness. With the arrival of spring came the awareness that the last time I'd asked for a weekend of solitude and reflection, I'd returned to ask husband #1 to leave. Would I do the same with husband #2?

Finally the day arrived. At the airport I said my goodbyes, and headed toward the gate. A single suitcase - checked - complete with a tent, sleeping bag, yoga mat and a change (or two!) of clothes. On my back was my backpack with the essentials - water, food, journal, camera, and a whistle.

"God be with me". I shook my head, "I can't believe this is really happening!"

Flight behind me, I slid into the rental car. "Here we go!" The 3 1/2 hour drive was spent in silent prayer "Meet me here, Lord. Please let there still be a campsite... Meet me here. Keep me safe...."

As I drew closer, the road became more and more rugged. Great potholes slowed the traveling speed to nearly a stop - but I pressed forward. Knowing that soon I would be in a place where I could be still and listen.

As I pulled into the National Park, I knew there was no turning back. I found a campsite and pitched my tent. I grabbed a small bag of granola, an apple, water and headed toward a spot on the ridge I'd noticed coming in.

From that point, I could see both the sun rise and the sun set. It became my place of morning and night-time sitting with God. There was some conversation - prayer requests, and expressions of praise and gratitude - but mostly, there was silence. What a change: from the demands of a day raising three year old twins to this. No agenda. Just be.

The desert nights were cold - snuggled deep into my sleeping bag with my whistle secured around my wrist, I prayed for protection. There I lay til the sun rose again.

The day-time consisted of morning quiet time on the ridge, exploration of the ruins, including hiking the ridge. I'd hike for a while, passing piles of rock to mark the path, then sit and journal for a while. When it was time to continue, I did. 15 miles and several pages I logged that day. Supper on the ridge was brief, and as the sun set, I prepared for sleep. I had one more morning before my return to Albuquerque. I needed a shower before entering an airplane - for everyone's sake! (and I wanted to buy some moccasins!)

Sunday morning, brushing my teeth, a woman walked in. "You went to sleep early last night", she said. I nearly choked on my toothpaste. I nodded. I told her about my hike and she nodded. As she left, I thought "Gosh - I'm not as invisible as I'd like to be sometimes...." Yet something about her awareness of my presence was comforting.

It was time to go. Granola, apple and water in hand, I hiked to the ridge for my final breakfast at Chaco Canyon. I opened my journal and wrote down some final thoughts about what I had learned. God had indeed met me here. But it was at this point I realized. I didn't need to come HERE to meet God. I simply needed to be quiet, and go within. God would meet me.

As I hiked down the ridge for the final time, I paused at the first turn, and gazed back. I smiled and nodded. I stacked four rocks on top of another. I am on the path. I am here.


kristin said...

What is the season of Sorrow and Peace?

And what did you decide after coming home to husband #2?

(I'm trying to remember your Christmas letter updates over the years...)

I think you have an amazing internal strength and clarity - I hope no one ever underestimates you.

Linda said...

I've inserted the link re: the season of Sorrow and Peace. (previous post) They were the days of deep sorrow yet great peace, where I was learning to depend on God for direction and guidance.

Patience regarding my decision.... that's tomorrow's story! :)

Robbie said...

Nicely said. It's still nice to have those special places where we can return and experience the wonder of God's creation. I'd like to think that when He looks down upon us, he feels just as pleased.